Mesothelioma symptoms are so broad and vague, and develop over such a long period of time, they are mistaken for more common types of illnesses. Early diagnosis is the key to treatment success. With an early diagnosis, patients are also eligible for quick access to asbestos trusts that provide money for treatment.
The most common symptoms of all types of mesothelioma are dyspnea (shortness of breath), dry coughing or wheezing, difficulty breathing or other respiratory complications, chest or abdominal pains, pulmonary effusion (fluid in lungs), nausea and trouble swallowing. Other symptoms include unexplained weight loss, random fever and unexplained fatigue.
With such unremarkable warning signs and slow progression, mesothelioma typically is not diagnosed until later stages, making it difficult for most doctors to treat. Choosing the right mesothelioma specialist and treatment center may be the most important medical decision you must make. Compensation from asbestos trust funds gives patients the financial freedom they need to seek the best possible treatment.
Types of Mesothelioma
- Pleural Mesothelioma – As the most common type of asbestos cancer, pleural mesothelioma has early symptoms that include chest pains, shortness of breath and fluid in the lungs. Later symptoms include a chronic cough and unexplained weight loss.
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma – cancer in the lining around the abdominal cavity produces symptoms that include abdominal distention, a continual feeling of fullness despite a loss of appetite and unexpected weight loss and bowel obstructions. Later symptoms include the onset of seizures and ascites, a buildup of fluids in the abdominal cavity.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma – When asbestos cancer attacks the lining that surrounds the heart, the symptoms are similar to those of pleural mesothelioma, including chest pains and difficulty breathing. There are limited treatment options due to the location of the disease.
- Testicular Mesothelioma – A lump in the testes is the most recognizable and consistent symptom for this rare mesothelioma type. Testicular mesothelioma accounts for one percent of all asbestos cancer diagnoses.
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- Prevalence – Most common of the four types of mesothelioma. Of the 3,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed a year, pleural mesothelioma makes up 75 to 80 percent of all cases.
- Symptoms – Early: Persistent cough, lethargy, pain in chest or lower back, fatigue, unexplained weight loss. Late Stage: Fever, excessive sweating, trouble swallowing (feeling of food getting stuck), coughing up blood, hoarse throat, swelling in arms and face.
- Area Affected – Chest (lungs)
- Ages Affected – Predominately age 20 and up. Most patients (typically men) diagnosed at age 69.
- Histology – Contains epithelioid cells, sarcomatoid cells or biphasic cells, which are a combination of the two. Epithelioid cells are the easiest to treat and usually the most prevalent.
- Early Stage Treatments – Early stage disease treatments (stages 1, 2, and sometimes 3) include curative procedures such as pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) procedure and an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). P/D involves removing the lining that surrounds the lungs and nearby tumors. EPP is used to remove the cancerous lung, lining surrounding the lungs, diaphragm and surrounding lymph nodes. Surgical options depend on spread of the disease. Chemotherapy and radiation used to kill remaining cancerous masses after surgery.
- Late Stage Treatments – Late stage treatments (stages 3 and 4) may include palliative surgical treatments to relieve the pain from tumors and palliative chemotherapy and radiation as tolerated.
- Prognosis – Early stage patients can live five years or more following a diagnosis and radical treatment procedures. Late stage patients typically survive less than 17 months following a diagnosis.
- Prevalence – Second most common of the four types of mesothelioma. Of the 3,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed a year, peritoneal mesothelioma makes up 21 to 25 percent of all cases.
- Symptoms – Early: Abdominal or stomach pains, bloating, unexplained weight loss, persistent constipation, nausea and vomiting. Late: Night sweats, fever, coughing up blood, abdominal swelling and pain.
- Area Affected – Abdomen (stomach)
- Ages Affected – Most patients (typically men) diagnosed between ages 50 to 69.
- Histology – Contains epithelioid cells, sarcomatoid cells or biphasic cells, which are a combination of the two. Epithelioid cells are the easiest to treat and usually the most prevalent. Also may include histological variations such as adenoid cystic, signet ring and pleomorphic.
- Early Stage Treatments – Early stage disease treatments (stages 1, 2, and sometimes 3) include cytoreduction (debulking) surgery, hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) treatment and peritonectomy. Cytoreduction is used to remove or reduce cancerous tumors. Most cytoreductive patients receive simultaneous HIPEC treatment, which involves placing heated chemotherapy into the abdominal area. A peritonectomy is used to remove the lining surrounding the abdominal area.
- Late Stage Treatments – Later stage disease treatment (stages 3 and 4) may include palliative cytoreduction surgery and HIPEC treatment. A paracentesis is used to remove the excess fluid in the abdomen and reduce discomfort.
- Prognosis – Early stage patients live three years or more following a diagnosis. Typical patients up to a year following a diagnosis. Late stage patients survive about six months or less.
- Prevalence – Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for only one to two percent of the 3,000 or so mesothelioma cases diagnosed annually.
- Symptoms – Early: Difficulty breathing, chest pains, severe cough, fatigue. Late: Pericardial effusion (build up of fluids in chest), swelling of face and arms, irregular heartbeat, heart murmurs.
- Area Affected – Chest (heart)
- Ages Affected – Like other forms of mesothelioma, most pericardial mesothelioma patients (typically men) are diagnosed between ages 50 to 69 due to the long latency period of the disease.
- Histology – Similar to other types of mesothelioma cancers, the cells involved include epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic cells.
- Early Stage Treatments – Early stage disease treatments (stages 1, 2, and sometimes 3) includes the removal of the lining that surrounds the heart, called a pericardiectomy, and surgical resection of tumors. Pericardial mesothelioma responds poorly to radiation treatment. Chemotherapy drugs pemetrexed and cisplatin are also used in both early and late stages.
- Late Stage Treatments – Later stage disease treatment (stages 3 and 4) may include a palliative pericardiocentesis, which prevents fluid build up around the heart and relieves constriction. Palliative photodynamic treatment is also possible.
- Prognosis – Early stage patients can live three years or more following a diagnosis. Typical patients live up to a year following a diagnosis. Late stage patients survive about six months or less.
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- American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html
- MedGenMed. Peritoneal Mesothelioma: A Review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1994863/
- Medscape. Pericardiocentesis. Retrieved from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/80602-overview?pa=cSUDKDsD%2FDnVCp%2FvhndsXAcWTo%2BbISLAnqJR08%2BjHTPF1cKyOxOL54Mvv%2FtRNTiREf5BdloZYRvNsp%2ByI52X3VGNDqtpq3248G9CjS7rQtE%3D